My Reasoning about Resolutions

 

new-year-1

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22:13

The end of 2015 will be tomorrow and the following day will be the beginning of 2016. The end to an old year and the beginning of a new year. Revelation 22 makes reference to the Lord being the beginning and the end. I find it interesting to relate this scripture verse to this time of the calendar year. Can I correlate these beginnings and endings?

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Making New Year’s resolutions is a common practice during this season of the year. After reading Proverbs 16, I want to consider New Year’s resolutions from a different perspective. This year, rather than my choosing what resolutions I want for my life, I am allowing the Lord to inspire my resolutions. Ultimately, if the Lord is the one to direct my steps, I will benefit from allowing Him to plan my ways. God has created me with a freewill to make my own choices but I will be wise to yield to His will. I want to follow His leading.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

This verse reveals my shortcomings. If the Lord’s thoughts and ways are so much better than mine, then I want to seek His thoughts and ways. What He has in store for me is better than any resolution or intention I might perceive. It is exciting to think about what the Lord may be thinking about for me!

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me
Psalm 138:8 ESV

If I make my own New Year’s resolutions, I will most likely keep them for only a limited period of time. It has been said that New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. However, the Psalmist assures me that the Lord will not fail to fulfill His purpose, or His resolutions, for me. Why should I try to do something I probably will not be able to consistently do throughout the coming year when I can rely upon God who will help me to accomplish His plans and purposes?

For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

This is a reassuring promise! The Lord knows best! If I want the Lord to fulfill His plans for me, then I want to make my decisions according to His desires. It is futile for me to create my own list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I will spend time this New Year’s Eve in prayer asking the Lord to reveal His plans to me.

And he that sat upon the throne said,
Behold, I make all things new.
Revelation 21:5 NKJV

The Lord makes all things new – that includes the New Year of 2016! My Reader, will you join me in allowing the Lord to direct your steps and fulfill His plans for your life in the coming year? This is the best way to make 2016 the best year possible!

Happy New Year!
May the Lord Bless You throughout 2016!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

 

 

 

A Journey to Bethlehem – Peace

 

advent-wreath-1As Christmas Day is getting closer, so am I getting closer to the completion of my spiritual journey to the Bethlehem of my heart. In order to reach my destination of a joyous, meaningful celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, my travels now take me along the Path of Peace. On Christmas Day, I want to humbly bow at the manger where the Baby Jesus is laid. Currently, I am in the company of all the men and women traveling to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of registering for the census required by Caesar Augustus.

traveler-1Luke 2:1-3 states,In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” Although registering for a census was not a common occurrence, no one was exempt from this decree. Anyone whose ancestry traced back to David had to travel to Bethlehem regardless of where they currently resided. Consequently, I encounter many people traveling the Path of Peace that leads to Bethlehem. I realize that not everyone has covered the same number of miles nor have they come from the same direction. For me, this symbolizes how anyone who comes to know Christ travels their own unique journey to find Him. However, the sad thing about these sojourners on their way to Bethlehem was that they did not know that they were on the same road as Mary and Joseph just before she would give birth to the Son of God. Many who lived in Bethlehem or were spending the night in that town had no idea of what sacred event was taking place in their midst. Luke 2:7 tells me that she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” I wonder if the inn keeper who shut the door of his home to Mary and Joseph eventually went out to his stable to see the Christ child. How many people today shut the doors of their hearts to Jesus preventing His birth into their lives?

While covering the miles of the Path of Peace with other travelers, I am curious about how many of them truly knew what a privilege it is to walk the Path of Peace. I wonder how many of the people around me today know the difference between the world’s peace and God’s peace. I want to make a couple of physical and spiritual comparisons. First, these people who over 2000 years ago made this journey because the emperor required all Romans citizens to write their names in a census book. The Lord has a more important book where I want to be sure my name is written. Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Secondly, Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the Roman world during this time of relative peace. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I agree with the Psalmist who tells the Lord in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” As I travel along the Path of Peace during this Advent season, I notice some scriptural sign posts along my way. Jesus says in John 14:27,Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Philippians 4:7 tells me, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, Colossians 3:15 reminds me to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Mark 1:3 says “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” and Isaiah 40:3 says, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” During the past four weeks, I have been on a spiritual journey to the Bethlehem in my heart, I have been traveling a highway comprised of the Road of Hope, Trail of Love, Route of Joy, and Path of Peace – all with the intent of making the path of my life straight so that I can sincerely celebrate the birth of Jesus in just a few days.

My Reader, I hope you have been traveling with me as we have retraced the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to celebrate His birthday. It seems appropriate for us to conclude our spiritual journey to Bethlehem by focusing upon the Christmas carol by Philip Brooks known as O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

For Christ is born of Mary;
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.

We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Merry Christmas to All My Readers!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

A Journey to Bethlehem – Joy

 

advent-wreath-1(The first week of this Advent series I shared that the primary color of the Advent candles was purple, signifying the importance of repentance for us to prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus. The third candle is often pink representing joy or rejoicing. It reveals a shift in the season away from repentance towards celebration. This week we light the candle of joy.)

The Wise Men were still traveling, Mary and Joseph had reached their destination, and now I encounter the shepherds on their way to Bethlehem. The shepherds had the shortest distance to travel to Bethlehem of any of these sojourners. They only needed to go approximately 3.2 miles from the fields where they were caring for their sheep to Bethlehem. While on my own spiritual journey to Bethlehem, I believe I would have traveled the Route of Joy with the shepherds.

shepherds clipart NOTEshepherds-clipart-noteLuke 2:8-14 records how the shepherds first heard about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The night He was born, they were in nearby fields taking care of their sheep. An angel personally delivered the message of Jesus’ birth to these men. The angel specifically told them that they would find this newborn baby in a manger. The shepherds were comfortable thinking about going to see Jesus in a manger because they knew they most likely they would be surrounded by more sheep and other animals. Luke 2:15-16 says, “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” I believe it was a joyous journey for them as they hurried along the route to Bethlehem. I believe they may have said words similar to those of Paul in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” These words and this road definitely need to be part of my spiritual journey to Bethlehem. I like traveling the Route of Joy!

To make sure that I stay upon the Route of Joy, I rely upon the Lord’s guidance promised in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” I also realize that the journey will not always be easy, so I claim Nehemiah 8:10 that says, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” While stumbling along the Route of Joy at night, I might cry and weep because I may fear that I have lost my way. However, I can be assured that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” according to Psalm 30:5.

Preparing for Christmas can sometimes lead me down a stressful path rather that my following the Route of Joy. There is an acronym for JOY that helps me keep the right perspective. It is J=Jesus, O=Others, and Y=Yourself. If I remember to focus upon this goal, I will be filled with joy. My Advent, my spiritual journey to my spiritual Bethlehem, will bring me more joy and allow me to share this joy with others if I give Jesus priority. He not only needs to be born in my life but I also need to allow Him to live in my life every day.

My Reader, I join the author of the gospel of John in sharing with you the following words of Jesus, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,found in John 15:11. I share my journey on the Route of Joy with you so that you too may encounter joy not only during this Christmas season but throughout the entire year. Let’s keep traveling together!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

A Journey to Bethlehem – Love

 

advent-wreath-1Last week I began my spiritual journey to Bethlehem to prepare my heart for Christmas. I traveled the Road of Hope and encountered the Wise Men or Magi. This week I walk along the Trail of Love with Mary and Joseph. The distance of my journey is approximately 12 inches from my head to my heart as I attempt to gain new understanding of the true story of Christmas. Mary and Joseph traveled about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order for the first Christmas to occur.

mary-and-josepth-1Luke 2:1-7 records the background for the following events. Because of a census required by Caesar Augustus, Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register in his own town. Mary and Joseph began their journey on the Trail of Love from Nazareth to Bethlehem as two people betrothed to each other. They shared different levels of love while journeying upon the Trail of Love. (There are three Greek words translated as love in the English language. Phileo describes the warm affection shared between friends, which would have been the beginning of the love experienced between Mary and Joseph. Eros is the physical, sensual love between a husband and wife. This couple would one day share this love but presently their marriage had not yet been consummated. Agape is the highest form of love described as the love of God for man and of man for God. Agape love was manifested to Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born.) Yes, Mary and Joseph were in love as they began their journey on the Trail of Love but love was then born unto them. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her first-born son, Jesus. He was the Son of God and Son of Man. I John 4:8 tells me, “God is love and God is the heavenly father of Jesus, so Jesus is love.

Mary and Joseph traveled the physical Trail of Love and today I am traveling the spiritual Trail of Love. I could describe my Trail of Love as a brick path with each of the characteristics of love described in I Corinthians 13:4-8 being a unique brick, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” These are powerful bricks to walk upon! As I travel upon this route taking me closer to the Bethlehem of my heart, I develop a deeper love for God and experience more deeply God’s love for me.

John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the little town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, God the Father, gave His Son, Jesus, to the world as the first Christmas gift. This first Christmas gift was motivated by love; and I desire this to be the motive behind each Christmas gift that I purchase and give away. I John 4:19 says, “We love because he (God) first loved us.” I want my Christmas gifts to express  both phileo and agape love to the recipients of my gifts.

In 1885, Christina Rosetta wrote a Christmas poem that has since been set to the music of a traditional Irish melody. Today it is known as Love Came Down at Christmas These words help me travel the Trail of Love to the spiritual Bethlehem in my heart. My Reader, please join me on my journey this week by meditating upon the following words. Let us together retrace the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birthday of Jesus!

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

A Journey to Bethlehem – Hope

 

advent-wreath-1Advent is a liturgical season of the Christian church designated as a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. This sacred season begins four Sundays before Christmas and is often observed with the aid of an Advent wreath. The wreath is composed of four candles – each candle representing an aspect of our spiritual preparation for a significant and meaningful celebration of Jesus’ birth. These aspects are hope, love, joy and peace. The primary color of the Advent candles is purple symbolizing repentance. For myself, I like to think of Advent as being a time for me to take a journey to Bethlehem. Over 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the census requirements of Caesar Augustus. While they were there, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus. Bethlehem also became the destination for Wise Men, shepherds and other people from the lineage of David who needed to register for the same census as Joseph. These people traveled a physical journey to a physical town. My journey to Bethlehem is a spiritual journey to a spiritual location. My Bethlehem is in my heart where Jesus is born and continues to live. Advent is the perfect opportunity for me to focus upon the place Jesus has in my life. Advent for 2015 began this past Sunday, so I set out on my journey this week. As I undertake my journey to Bethlehem this year, I want to focus upon the roads of hope, love, joy and peace. I also want to gain insights from various biblical characters who have traveled these roads in the past.

Today I am traveling upon the Road of Hope. This route can sometimes be hard to see based upon Romans 8:24-25 that says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” However Romans 5:5 assures me that hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

wise-menI believe I could meet the Wise Men or Magi traveling the Road of Hope. These men covered the longest distance and it took them the longest time of any travelers I will encounter to reach Bethlehem. They may have been coming from Persia or India or China, so could easily have covered over 800 miles to reach their destination. Two years had lapsed from the time Jesus was born until the these men found Jesus in Bethlehem. These Wise Men personified hope because they did not even know their destination when they started their journey. According to Matthew 2:2, they simply followed a star that appeared in the east. Some say these men may have begun their journey before Jesus was born while others say the star first appeared to them the moment of his birth.

Looking back into history, I try to imagine what the Wise Men did as they traveled down the Road of Hope. Matthew 7:7 may give me some insight, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Wise Men asked people in Jerusalem and talked with King Herod about where they could find this baby born to be king of the Jews. They continued to seek Him by following the star God provided for them. They probably knocked on the door of the home where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living when they found him as a two-year-old boy. Throughout their journey, they were on the Road of Hope believing Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

Today Christmas cards that portray the Wise Men often include the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him.” That includes me! I can apply these same scriptures to my journey to the Bethlehem within my heart while traveling the Road of Hope. I mentioned hope being part of the Lord’s plan according to Jeremiah 29:11. When I go on to Jeremiah 29:13, it says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” I like this promise! If I fulfill Matthew 7:7 of asking, seeking and knocking, I can claim the promise of Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in me means Christ in my heart. I can experience this by traveling the Road of Hope. This is why I need to retrace the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare myself to celebrate the His birthday!

My Reader, will you join me on this journey? While we travel down the Road of Hope together we can rely upon the promise of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.